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NJ Construction Worker Falls Into Tank of Acid

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

A New Jersey ironworker who fell into a vat of acid is recovering after co-workers performed a courageous rescue, a fire chief said.

Martin Davis, 44, was on the roof of a metal tube manufacturing plant in Clifton, N.J., when he somehow fell through the roof and plunged 40 feet into a tank of nitric acid Monday morning, The Record reports.

Davis was fully submerged in the acid. Clifton’s fire chief initially said a co-worker had jumped into the vat to save Davis, but the reluctant acid-vat hero was a bit more modest.

The "hero" co-worker told The Record he did not jump into the acid tank, but instead was one of four workers who pulled Martin Davis out of the acid. "I had to get him out of there," he said.

The four rescuers were treated at hospitals for skin irritation and minor burns. Davis was in critical condition Tuesday with a broken rib, a punctured lung, and burns to his body, his brother told The Record.

The acid that burned Davis was a 40% to 70% solution of nitric acid that's used to clean metal tubing. "It's diluted,' one of Davis' co-workers told The Record. "He's going to be fine."

The acid vat accident happened on the construction workers' first day at the job site, where they were set to replace the roof. It's not clear if the workers' company obtained a building permit, which would have led to a city safety inspection before or during the roofing work, Clifton's fire chief said.

Workplace accidents like Davis' generally trigger a federal investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In fact, any work-related fatality or accident that sends at least three workers to the hospital must be reported to OSHA within eight hours, according to OSHA rules.

Once an investigation is complete, the injured workers could also potentially pursue a personal-injury lawsuit against the entity deemed at fault for the acid-vat accident. Such suits typically seek compensation for medical bills and lost wages.

If eligible, injured worker Mike Davis may also seek workers' compensation for his fall into the acid vat. But because workers' comp benefits act as a type of insurance in some cases, a worker may not be able to sue his employer if he accepts workers' comp.

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